keep the babies safe

As a rule of thumb, I keep my list of goals as a parent very simple. The reason behind this is two-fold: For one, I'm realistic. I know I'm going to really fuck it up a time or two. Plus, fewer goals equals fewer opportunities to fail and in twenty or so years, I'd like to be able to actually believe that I didn't suck more than I did. The other reason is that the things I deem goal-worthy-- meaning, the things I will allow myself to lose sleep over-- are few and far between.

 

Quite frankly, I don't give a shit if my kids drank breastmilk exclusively or formula as a baby or eat kale voluntarily or survive on nothing but Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I don't care if my kid gets straight A's or is labeled "academically gifted" or is an athletic or musical prodigy. Nor do I care about their enthusiasm to do anything other than watch another Barbie movie for the four thousandth time. I mean, I care of course. But I won't allow those things to be the measure of the kind of mother I am or the kind of humans my kids are. Those are all just minor details that, in twenty years, nobody will give a shit about, including me, their mother, the one who currently begs them to eat their god damn kale.

 

I only devote my parental energy to four things and doing them to the best of my ability with the hope that one day, maybe they'll eat more kale than they eat sugar and treat everyone equally and with love.

 

Help them stay safe. 

Encourage them to be brave. 

Remind them to have fun. 

Don't be an asshole so they won't be an asshole.

 

That's what Joe and I focus on every day, some days much more successfully than others, in the hopes that Marlo, Edie, and Knox turn into semi-decent human beings. They are reasonable, doable, and universally appropriate. They are simple to explain and easy for a child to remember. They are the foundation of our family's credo and though we don't always follow them perfectly, for the most part, they guide the way. 

 

And it used to feel like enough, like if we just remain consistent and stay true to our beliefs, we'd most likely raise well-adjusted humans who we actually like and not just because we share the same genetic make-up. But lately, for so many reasons-- which include but are not limited to the latest tragic school shooting-- it feels like nothing will ever be enough to prepare them for the cruelty of the world they're up against. This world feels brutal, more unpredictable, and full of what the fuck's that I am having a hard time explaining to an inquisitive, precocious almost-six-year-old. I don't have a simple answer for Marlo when she asks me why she has to practice lockdown drills. I don't know what to tell her when she asks me who would be sad enough to come and hurt her and her friends.

 

 

This weekend, Marlo told me that if someone were in her school and trying to hurt her friends, she wouldn't hide. Instead, she told me, she'd break the rules and try to protect her friends because "that's the right thing to do and you always tell me to do the right thing." I had to leave the room so she didn't see the silent sobs escaping from me. 

 

Marlo was recently awarded the Kindness Award from her class. So it makes complete sense to me that she would want to protect her friends. She's an empath and a natural-born advocate therefore I'd expect nothing less from her. And it's admirable, sure. It's a sign that whatever Joe and I are doing may be working towards shaping a woman who radiates goodness. That's our goal, after all. However, as far as I know, most kindergarteners still need the occasional help wiping their own ass so surely protecting each other from foreseeable death needn't be their responsibility? Hell, Marlo isn't even entirely sure what she would be protecting them from. But I do. I'm heartbreakingly aware of what to be afraid of because I spend my nights awake thinking of the children who have died over the last ten years-- children the same age as Mo-- and how their parents didn't get to hold them again at night. I wake up at night haunted with the fear they must have experienced and it shatters me. 

 

I'm livid that what once felt comforting due to its' simplicity and the inarguable applicability, now feels inadequate. It's no longer as easy as keeping them safe in parking lots and convincing them that the dentist isn't trying to kill them with the water pik or yanking them by their elbows not a second before they jump into the deep-end of the pool without their floaties. It now includes preparing them for how to not get shot at their god damned school. 

 

Clueing Mo in on just how fucked up our world is feels like an unnecessary robbing of her innocence. She is so blissfully unaware of the big bad world around her and her sweet little shoulders shouldn't bear the weight of it' reality just yet. It's my hope that the reality will morph into one that doesn't need to be feared but I can't make her any promises. As a result, I'm left wondering how I tell my oldest baby that it's okay to not be brave in that moment. I'm forced to now discourage one of the pillars I've built my parenting manifesto on. I don't know how I tell her that what I need is for her to stay alive. 

 

I've spent the last few days off and on in tears. I'm heartbroken and bitterly angry. I feel helpless knowing that no amount of conscious or intentional parenting of mine or yours will guarantee protection for my own babies because the problem is so much bigger than a few golden rules are capable of handling. I'm sure the parents of the kids who lost their lives in Florida had very similar principles. I'm sure they encouraged their kids to be kind and brave and to not be an asshole, too. But it didn't protect them and it sure as shit isn't comforting the empty arms of the parents who will be burying their children this week.  

 

I don't know where to go from here. All I know is that we have to work harder to protect our babies so future generations don't grow up accepting that school shootings are inevitable. We have to protect our babies so kids don't think that being brave and doing the right thing means jumping in front of a blaze of bullets. 

 

We have to keep our babies safe. We have to keep our babies alive. We just have to. 

to be continued...

 

I'm not sure what exactly spurred these feelings. My guess is that it is a combination of turning thirty in less than a month, Mo turning five and starting kindergarten this year, and, of course, the godforsaken election (now-presidency) from hell. I may not be sure of what planted the seed but it became far too obvious to not do something about it.

 

 

 I want to focus on those two up there and date my husband. To cook without documenting it for people not sharing the meal with me. To play at the park and go on adventures with my babies and leave my fucking phone at home. To use my real camera because I maintain a deep love for photography versus likes. To write without sharing what has been published because writing has always been for me and will continue to always be for me. To savor this painfully short season of life before I watch Mo march onto a big yellow school bus every morning while being forced to trust other people to love and care for her the way I do.  To suss out this life with the people I love without sharing it with strangers. 

 

It's heavy shit and, for me, personally, I want to do the heavy lifting without broadcasting the weight of the load.

 

So, I am taking an indefinite social media hiatus. I'll likely continue to write here in this space because writing is something I find myself unable to NOT do. It's my free, take-no-shit therapist and I'm able to balance writing with the rest of life. But sharing all of life's moments in a tiny square on a social media app? My only goal in life is to not be an asshole and social media makes me feel like an asshole. I so easily become distracted and get sucked into the black hole of my explore page. I find myself wasting an embarrassing amount of time or, even worse, completely disengaged from my kids. 

 

As I approach this new decade, a decade I've always looked so forward to entering, the only thing I want to do with this time is be as wholly good as I can be for the near and dear people I love. Eliminating the distractions-- the things and people which don't always bring out the best version of myself-- seems like the easiest place to start. 

 

See ya' when I see ya', folks.

 x C x

farewell, sir.

Last night, Barack Hussein Obama II told the people of this great country that serving as our president has been the greatest honor of his lifetime and I truly believe him.

But I can't help but feel that the real honor actually belongs to us.

It has been an honor to watch this family for the last eight years as they stood beside one another while standing behind ALL of us. Because of this man and his exemplary level of leadership, a new precedent in politics was forged for our country-- one deeply rooted in the plight of integrity, of inclusivity, and of human decency. One does not have to be in favor of his particular brand of politics to acknowledge and respect the humanity that this man lives, breathes, and so deeply believes is worth fighting for. 

This morning, a friend who will, too, mourn the end of Obama's tenure, sent me Dan Rather's response to the farewell address and I wanted to post it in its' entirety. 

 

He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
- Hamlet
Whatever you think of the presidency of Barack Obama, and I know there are many who think of him as one of our greatest presidents and others with a distinctly differing opinion, I think we can all safely say he was unlike any man who has ever occupied the office of President of the United States. And I cannot imagine anyone quite like him in the future.
Tonight we saw a man of dignity, chastened by the reality of Washington and speaking in the shadows of a presidential election that leaves his legacy deeply threatened and seems to still be spiraling into uncharted territory. This was not the young Senator who bounded upon the world stage with unbridled optimism in a belief we could easily overcome all that divides us. This was a man humbled by experience, but still summoning a deep faith in the basic strength of our democratic traditions. He spoke of the accomplishments of which he was most proud, but he then shifted into a remarkable stretch where he highlighted all the challenges ahead. He almost sounded like a candidate for office, undoubtedly frustrated by the forces he felt were arrayed against him.
He spoke deeply about race, the undercurrent that coursed beneath his presidency as it has through all of American history. He spoke sympathetically of white Americans who feel worried and marginalized, but he then turned forcibly to a sense of all the racial progress left to be done and an inclusive outreach to immigrants. It was one America, perhaps without some of the naivete of his famed speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. It seems to me that this will be his message going forward, combatting what he called the "great sorting" of self-isolation according to cultural, region, religious, and ethnic lines.
One of his biggest applause line was that "science and reason matter." He spoke passionately about his worry for a nation that increasingly assigns the notions of "facts" to partisan battle. And his section on climate change, the shamefully ignored issue of the last election, was particularly strong. It was a section that resonated with me personally, a belief that science and reason must be the path forward for our nation to thrive and prosper. It echoed a quote I just saw from Thomas Jefferson: "In a republican nation whose citizens are to be led by reason and persuasion and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of first importance."
It is tempting to see a Farewell Address as, well, a farewell. But I got the sense watching President Obama tonight that this will not be the last we will see of him commanding a public stage. His youth, the state of the nation and the world, his unique background and qualifications will likely make him a presence in our national discourse for a long time to come.
When President George Washington issued his Farewell Address, setting the precedent echoed tonight, he almost literally rode off into the sunset. And for most of American history former presidents largely retired from an actively political public life. There have been many notable exceptions - John Quincy Adams and Teddy Roosevelt - just to name a few. But new technologies for communication and the seemingly sudden shift in the direction of our charted course as a nation will make the destiny of this former president likely different from all that have preceded him.
It is striking to see this man, who rode into the White House under the banner of Hope, age under the burdens of the office in the years since. As we mark this moment, where we confront a seeming crisis of conscience in our democratic experiment, it's important to remember the dire storm clouds of global financial doom that greeted President Obama eight years ago.
How will history judge this man and his tenure is a question none of us can fully answer. It depends not only what has happened but on what has yet to occur. And I suspect President Obama will have a hand, a strong hand, in shaping this destiny.

the lessons of 2016

via

via

2016 felt like one long giant kick in the balls but, hey, I made it! WE MADE IT! It an effort to remain grateful for even the most gratuitous moments the last year graced me and my family with, I am putting forth as much effort I can muster to appreciate the lessons it taught me. So, without further ado, here is what I learned while doubled over in the fetal position...

  1. Change is almost always good but it is not always easy to embrace or adjust to. 
  2. No one is immune to experiencing the many ebbs and flows of life. All in due time. 
  3. Some years, there will be more ebbing than flowing and that shit will be hard but just know that life has a way of balancing itself out.  
  4. Some days, the kids being fed, warm, and alive is enough. Any self-imposed goals of a day free of tantrums or an adequate consumption of leafy green food will have to fuck themselves back into a Pepperidge Farm non-organic goldfish box where they belong. 
  5. Being tired turns me into an asshole, my kids into tyrants, and my husband into a very scared, emotionally abused man.
  6. Even mommy throws tantrums and even your kids wake up in bad moods for no other reason than wanting to piss you off. Tomorrow is a new day to try harder to not be an asshole. 
  7. Empathy involves listening without speaking, holding space for someones' pain without negating it, and reminding them that they are not alone in their struggle. Life is isolating enough-- hard enough-- without making someone feel terrible for simply being human.  
  8. A great number of people are addicted to outrage. Coincidentally, a great number of people are assholes. 
  9. Anyone who makes you feel like you have to prove your worth is the one guilty of proving that they aren't worthy. I should not and will not justify the degree to which I've only proven I'm human because it makes you feel better about your own lack of humanity. 
  10. Never say never because swallowing those words taste a whole lot more like vinegar than they do honey. Especially when those words begin with "When I'm a parent, I'll never do...." 

 

a look back at 2016 + intentions for the new year

Commissioned painting of our family done by my incredibly talented and dear friend,  Emily . You can see the colorful version of the painting  here.

Commissioned painting of our family done by my incredibly talented and dear friend, Emily. You can see the colorful version of the painting here.

Do you, like me, roll your eyes the moment someone declares the upcoming year to be THE year they embrace a new, better, healthier version of themselves? I mean, it's well-intentioned, of course. It's just that that kind of declaration is bound to set you up for failure. Living under the impression that all one needs is the turn of a calendar page to miraculously possess the discipline to do whatever it is you're convinced you need to do differently from years past seems kind of ridiculous. Does January 1st demand something different from us than... say... June 13th?

 

I digress.

 

I will admit that I do appreciate any opportunity to reflect. I also find it a healthy dose of perspective to process where I've stood, where I'm currently standing, and where I'd like to be. As I look back on 2016, I have ultimately decided that 2016 mostly felt like a battle of extremes where the majority of my energy was devoted to adjusting and assisting the girls' adjustment from our move from NY back to NC. It was a foggy, messy, blur of a process, of which I'm not all-together confident is actually over. When I wasn't explaining to Marlo why "I was the worst person in the world for moving her away from her best friends and favorite playground" (yes, that was an actual reoccurring conversation), I was merely trying to survive a level of physical exhaustion I've yet to previously experience thanks to Edie's malfunctioning ear canals.

 

Coincidentally, 2016 was also the year that made me question if I was had any fucking clue whatsoever what I am doing as a parent. By mid-September, I came to the annoyingly obvious conclusion that I remain as moderately ill-equipped to be any of the things that are expected of me as a mom as I was before I actually birthed a human. How enlightening!

 

But I kept on keeping on, trying like hell to figure how to be the mom my girls needed me to be. And, though the process was painstakingly difficult and often punishingly futile, admitting to myself that I have approximately zilch figured out gave me the boost to keep pushing onward and upward. In my mind, if the job wasn't done, neither was I. 

 

I fucked up a lot in 2016, too.

 

I lost my temper over the most embarrassingly ridiculous things. I let the unimportant details of the everyday get the best of me. I wasn't always grateful. I threw tantrums and behaved like a brat. I let the poor behavior of others affect my emotional well being when they weren't even worth an ounce of my energy to begin with. I went against my better judgement which bit me in the ass EVERY SINGLE TIME. I didn't always give it all I've got to give because either a) I was too tired or b) I simply didn't want to. I wasn't always kind to myself nor did I give myself the amount of I grace I pass out to everyone else like candy. 

 

And, when you know better and choose to not do better, there are no worthy justifications or excuses. You just have to own the fucking up. 

 

Looking forward into the year ahead, I will make no grand declarations or bold statements about about what I hope 2017 to hold for me or my family. I only want to continue being the best possible version of myself/wife/mother/friend/daughter I can be because my people and I deserve that.

 

That means following my gut instincts instead of ignoring them, standing my ground when pressed to back down, giving my kids more space to be themselves and not allowing them to be shamed for being human, embracing the messiness of the everyday because the message lies somewhere deep within that mess, blocking out the noise of what others may think, accepting the crazy but not engaging it, giving myself permission to rest without the guilt trip, taking up verbal/physical/emotional space without apology, holding myself as accountable as I hold others, writing as often as I feel I have something to say, treating my body and mind as though I love myself because I do, and remaining grateful to wake up every morning and have the opportunity of living and loving the amazing, abundant, complicated, beautiful, messy life I am so, so fucking lucky to lead beside the three other souls in that picture.

 

Trying harder to be our best, even when the effort feels impossible or the outcome proves pointless, counts for something because continued effort in the face of obstacles fucking matters. That level of tenacity should be worn as a badge of honor because it sure as shit isn't easy. At the very least, the degree to which we put forth effort should be enough to detract from our endless list of shortcomings.... Right?!

 

Happy 2017, y'all. I hope it's a beautiful one.

christine x